Mother still knows best: Maternal influence uniquely modulates adolescent reward sensitivity during risk taking

Authors

  • João F. Guassi Moreira,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, USA
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  • Eva H. Telzer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
    2. Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
    3. Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
    4. Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Eva H. Telzer, 235 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; e-mail: ehtelzer@unc.edu

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Abstract

Adolescent decision-making is highly sensitive to input from the social environment. In particular, adult and maternal presence influence adolescents to make safer decisions when encountered with risky scenarios. However, it is currently unknown whether maternal presence confers a greater advantage than mere adult presence in buffering adolescent risk taking. In the current study, 23 adolescents completed a risk-taking task during an fMRI scan in the presence of their mother and an unknown adult. Results reveal that maternal presence elicits greater activation in reward-related neural circuits when making safe decisions but decreased activation following risky choices. Moreover, adolescents evidenced a more immature neural phenotype when making risky choices in the presence of an adult compared to mother, as evidenced by positive functional coupling between the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal cortex. Our results underscore the importance of maternal stimuli in bolstering adolescent decision-making in risky scenarios.

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